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Br J Ind Med. 1988 Sep;45(9):606-12.

Health hazards of fire fighters: exposure assessment.

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Division of Environmental Sciences, School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032.


There is growing concern over the detrimental health effects to firefighters produced by exposure to combustion byproducts of burning materials. To assess the types and levels of exposure encountered by firefighters during their routine occupational duties, members of the Buffalo Fire Department were monitored during firefighting activities with personal, portable, ambient environmental sampling devices. The results indicate that firefighters are frequently exposed to significant concentrations of hazardous materials including carbon monoxide, benzene, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, aldehydes, hydrogen chloride, dichlorofluoromethane, and particulates. Furthermore, in many cases of the worst exposure to these materials respiratory protective equipment was not used owing to the visual impression of low smoke intensity, and thus these levels represent actual direct exposure of the firefighters. Many of these materials have been implicated in the production of cardiovascular, respiratory, or neoplastic diseases, which may provide an explanation for the alleged increased risk for these illnesses among firefighters.

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